Wednesday, 9 June 2010

On Pilpulism 2 - Mitzvat Matzah

Mitzvat Matzah

Question: Aside from the Seder Night - is there a Positive Mitzvah to eat Matzah?

A: The GRA posits YES, there is a Mitzvah Qiyumit but NOT a Mitzvah Hiyyuvit

Aside from this da'at Yachid , AFAIK the overwhelming concensus is NO, the only mitzvah is a negative aseh - not to eat Hameitz. IOW a "Lav habbah miklal Aseh"

Now the Torah states about 7 times to EAT Matzah for 7 days. Only ONCE does it state just 6 days [Namely Parshat R'eih - Kol Hab'chor see below]

Q: Why ignore the P'shat of the overwhelming majority of P'suqim?

A: See the Braitto of R. Yishma'el principle #8 ...v'yatza min hak'lal..

As a result of Midrash Halachah, the mitzvah is reduced to strictly optional - while the Seder Night remains a mitzvah ONLY due to another Passuq - namely "Bo'erev Toch'lu Matzot."

This is despite that the p'shat in D'varim 16:8 - which states only 6 days - can easily be construed as "Go eat Matzah for 6 days and then on the 7th have an Atzeret" Which - when you think about it - might not imply anything either way about Matzah on the 7th day itself. And so this could easily mean that re: 7th day - on the P'shat level - there is no explicit exemption at all!

But no mind! Because in the final analysis, the Midrash Halachah trumps, P'shat - as per the Rashbam previously cited in the opening post.

And I'm not here to argue the merits of Matzah! Rather to show that pilpul is indigenous to Talmudic discourse and is not an invention of Tosafot or of the Acharonim.

Now, do later Rabbinical figures take pilpul to another level? Perhaps so. Perhaps the dosage has been ratcheted up, and that Pilpul has been abused by Post-Talmudic Rabbinism. But that is a judgment call, an opinion, not objective fact.

Tangentilly, it is obvious to me that the GRA was uncomfortable in taking the Midrash as far as it has been widely accepted. AISI he feels the P'shat level must have some validity in the real world, and so he "splits the baby" hiyyuv no, qiyyum yes.



Shlomo said...

Perhaps Chazal used "pilpul" as a device for systematizing opinions they already knew from tradition, rather than a means of inventing new halacha?

Rabbi R Wolpoe said...

Shlomoh is on point. This is often the case and it boils down to which came first, the Midrash or the Halachah

Simply put, did the Midrash provide an asmachta for existing tradition or did the Midrash create new law.

I'm guessing that both are frequent

I would also assume that Tosafot frequntly is "pilpulling" to justify a known practice. Here is where I split the baby. I applaud Tosafot for preserving tradotion, but i have my reservations with some of the pilpul. as the G'mara says, "im Kabbalh hee, n'kabbel" IOW some very "difficult" decisions can be accepted when present as TRADITION and rejected when they are s'vara because the s'vara is debatable or even dubious.